Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tiramisu without coffee/ Orange Tiramisu

I'm not a huge coffee person, so the typical tiramisu with coffee powder doesn't appeal that much.  During mega Sunday lunch at the weekend one of the most delicious dishes was the tiramisu.  It reminded me a little more of trifle than tiramisu, so I guess you can call it either.  It did involve some delicious marscapone that my Mum and I made late the night before.  We used silver top milk (because that was the only spare milk).  It was delicious and creamy.  It took longer than it usually takes to heat up (and in fact I had trouble getting it past eighty degrees), and I wonder if this is something to do with the cream in it?  I don't know enough about cheese making to comment.

Anyway the ease with which I made the marscapone led my mother to want to get a kit - so I'm using the mail order service to send one to her down south for Mother's Day!

This dessert is quite rich and goes a long way.  There were 17 adults here for lunch on Sunday - most of whom had some of this dessert. I finished off the last mouthful to make the dish nice and clean for the dishwasher!

The recipe is quite forgiving, and my measurements are approximate.

Orange tiramisu/ trifle

A couple of packets of ladyfingers
One serving of marscapone (about 400g)
Whipped cream (About a cup or so), plus some to decorate.
Orange juice
Two fresh oranges - grate off the zest, then peel and slice the orange finely.

 Mix together the orange zest, marscapone and cream.  You want to have very soft mixture, so keep adding cream until you have an easily spoonable mixture. Dip the ladyfingers in orange juice quickly then line a suitable dish with them.  We used a round deep dish, so we got heaps of layers.  Put over a layer of the marscapone mixture, then top with sliced oranges.  Repeat as many times as you have space, then top with more whipped cream.

Oxtail ragu with handkerchief pasta

Fancy title!

I'm really fond of oxtail soup, but two years ago I got the latest edition of cuisine, saw this oxtail ragu recipe and decided then and there to make it for my friends that night.  It was superbly yummy.  Handkerchief pasta is basically ripped up bits of pasta sheets (I reckon  it would be a great way to use up all the broken bits at the bottom of the pasta container as well).  The recipe is here Oxtail ragu

My friend lent me her pasta roller the other day so I decided to make the pasta to go with it.  Due to a rather idiotic overpurchasing moment I have heaps of semolina.  My breadmaker can also knead pasta dough so I threw the eggs, semolina and flour into the breadmaker and went to pick up my daughter from creche.  Once I got home I wrapped it in glad wrap to rest for 30 mins and am about to roll out now. 

I've purchased a couple of chocolate pots and world's most delicous vanilla custard, Dollop pudding's brand.  Tonight it is cold and raining.  We have three DVDs that have arrived from Fatso, and are all set up!

Money and Soup

Today my favourite things are large tax refunds (yay) and french onion soup.  I've tried Julia Child's recipe for a change.  I love how you just chop up heaps of onions, caramelise, add beef stock and some brandy and you are basically done.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chipoussil, cousin of turducken.

I have invented a word.

The word above does not appear on any of my rudimentary search engine attempts.  So I'm claiming it!  It took about a minute to create, and some would recommend chipoussail (which also doesn't come up).


After the New Years madness of Turducken we needed a new food challenge.  Cheesemaking has been happily taking up time, but for good old fashioned fun we needed to do something different.  And it seemed a good excuse to buy quail, even if you have to buy them in packs of four!

The theory is the same as turducken:  the inner birds are completely deboned, the outer bird is partially deboned, with drumsticks and wings left on.  There is a layer of stuffing between each bird.  Fancy stitch work, or just fun impaling with skewers to close together at the end and you have your own mixed meat bird!

Chicken: panko breadcrumbs, egg, salt, pepper and parsley stuffing.
Poussin: moroccon lamb sausage and pinenuts stuffing
Quail: spinach and bacon

As usual, the deboning (dissection) was handled by my husband, who has gotten rather quick at processing the birds.  In no time at all there was a lovely stack of bones for making stock, and once the layers of stuffing were added it was just time to roll up, secure and then cook for three hours (to at least 70 degrees).


Chipoussil was part of our annual Easter Sunday lunch.  Each year we put on a roast and invite people who are not doing anything else to come over.  Most years our experience has been that everyone goes away on holiday, and about five or six people come over.  This year we had full attendance.  I was rather worried that our tiny house would struggle with this many people, and that there wouldn't be enough food, but it all came together.  My mother was visiting and rather gamely assisted with the massive food production.  She made some delicious meringues with yummy raspberry sauce, and assembled the most delicious orange tiramisu/ trifle. People snugged up together on the floor or on the couches, the children ran off to play in the hidey hut in my daughter's room and a good time was had by all.  It was such a lovely afternoon.  I love having lots of people over, and will hopefully one day balance the host's need to keep things moving with my desire to sit down and have lots of lovely chats!!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Progesterone poisioning pork/ Crumbed pork with rhubarb ginger jam

My husband is a bit addicted to Leuven restaurant here in Wellington.  It is a Belgium 'beer garden' kind of place, that serves copious amounts of steamed mussels.  We are not really into beer or even mussels, but there are heaps of other lovely dishes, and since the menu doesn't seem to change we pretty much know what we are going to have before we get there.

My favourite for a long time has been a crumbed pork chop on mashed potato with apple.  Unfortunatly last time I ate it was while I was pregnant and had a rather omnipresent nausea coupled with the odd power chuck.  I ate my meal, felt ill, went outside to take the air - then had to decide whether to vomit in the toilet or in the gutter.  I ran inside and vomited copiously in the sink.  I cleaned up as best I could (while my sister in law checked up on me) and then had to shamefacedly go and let the rather taken aback staff know that I had been ill in the sink and some bleach was required.  While I doubt I'm the first person to vomit there, I bet you I'm probably one of the few who has done it during the early dinner service.

Anyway, recently we were given some delicious rhubarb and ginger jam made by a good friend (Giffy whose comments show up here sometimes).  I decided to make my homage to that delicious meal.  It will be a while before we go back.

Progesterone poisioning pork

Pork chops (large ones, one per person)
Panko crumbs
Fresh parsley
One apple
Quarter red cabbage
1/4 cup orange juice
One leek
Butter and oil.
Four potatoes
Delicious rhubarb and ginger jam to serve

Finely dice the parsley, add to the panko crumbs then crumb the pork chops.  Fry in a saucepan, then remove to a rack on an oven tray and finish off in the oven.  While baking in the oven, core and quarter the apple and place on the oven rack to bake. Finely chop the red cabbage and slowly fry in a saucepan, using the orange juice as a braising liquid.  Cook until soft and well reduced in size.  Boil potatoes for mashed potato (I keep the skin on because it is going to be a chunky mash).  Drain and leave to cool.  Reuse pot and cook the leek in a little butter until wilted.  Put the potato back in, mash and add milk as required to achieve desired smoothness).

To serve.  Put a blob of mash in the middle of the plate, top with the cabbage then the pork chop.  Put the apple and delicious jam on the side.  Yum!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Oxtail soup with noodles and asian veges

This is a really nice and pretty easy recipe that I've picked up from my husband and his family.  It is one of my favourite winter soups, and I had some the other day.  When I was pregnant over winter last year all I wanted was a big bowl of this, unfortunately my favourite green vege accompaniments would make me sick.  It takes a long time to cook, so either start in the morning or the day before.

You need some oxtail (often found in the smallgoods section of the butchery, or in beef).  A mixture of big and small pieces is nice.  We normally have about two big pieces and two small pieces per person.  If you purchase from a butcher or over the counter, get them to trim off the fat.

Trim off as much fat as you can.  It is sometimes easiest to do this if the oxtail has been in the freezer for an hour or so.  Put the oxtail in a large stockpot and cover with water or chicken stock.  The oxtail will be cooking for a long time, creating its own delicious beef stock so doesn't really need chicken stock.  Bring to the boil, then simmer for at least four hours.  You can also do this in a slow cooker on high for about eight hours.  Your aim is for falling of the bone meat.

Oxtail is fatty, so I consider this next step essential.  Let the soup and oxtail cool down, then put in the fridge.  My fridge is too small for my stockpot so I put it in a long tupperware container. The soup should set (there is a lot of cartilage in oxtail) and the fat will harden on the top of the soup.  Scoop it off and chuck away.  Put the stock and oxtail back into a large pot and start simmering again.  Put a small amount of the soup into a small saucepan and cook some noodles in it.  Anything works - I like rice noodles or small thin egg noodles.  My daughter had alphabet noodles when we ate this over the weekend.  Add in some delicious chopped up veges.  I really like bok choi, spring onion and broccoli.  Choi sum, mushrooms, green beans and mung beans are also popular additions.

If you are drinking this soup because you are feeling sick, I like to grate over some ginger, and add a teaspoon of soy sauce to each bowl of soup.  Yum.

Fussy eaters - best tricks?

In the last week I've had a few successes with my daughter trying some new things.  My daughter ate anything put in front of her until she was two years old, then developed preferences.  She has never really eaten any of the traditional children's foods (especially the nice easy to prepare ones like spaghetti on toast), but does favour Asian style food.  All in all, her diet is pretty healthy, but I am always looking to add new things.

In the last week I have had unusual success getting her to try some new things.  I say unusual, because trying new things is not something she is keen on.  These tricks might work for others, so I'm typing them up here.  I'd love to hear any other approaches you have.

Eating pesto:
I bought two kinds of shaped pasta from Med Food Warehouse - one alphabet shapes, the other Christmas shapes (markdown).  I'd tried to get her to eat pesto before - after all, it is just about the easiest thing to put on pasta.  In the past calling it green sauce was unsuccessful.  This time I said that I had decorated the Christmas tree shapes with green dots. She ate half of her pasta, a success in this house.

Hard boiled eggs:
For the life of me I don't know why I hadn't pushed these harder in the past.  Eggs are a great meal.  Last time I made one for myself my daughter was not keen - said that they were yucky (without trying) and that eggs were for baking not eating.  Those of you with four year olds will be familiar with the conversation.  As an Easter promotion one egg company is including wraps to put around eggs, that then go skin tight when dipped in hot water.  She ate the egg white and I will have to work on the egg yolk!

Choosing the veges:
I've often read that children are more likely to eat veges that they have grown themselves.  This is not the case with my daughter, but she is more likely to eat a vegetable that she has chosen for herself at the market/ supermarket and then choosen again for dinner.  Last night we were having crumbed chicken and couscous.  I told my daughter to pick some veges to go in.  She was quite intrigued and pulled out cauliflower, broccolli, spring onion and red cabbage.  Her dinner was eaten.

Conducting an experiment:
Last week I made some yoghurt in the yoghurt maker.  I ate some flavoured with a little of the strawberry jam I'd made the week before and it was scrummy.  I wanted my daughter to try it, as it was pretty delicious and I thought she may like it.  I got out the yoghurt, jam and a bowl.  I explained that we need to conduct an experiment in how to make strawberry yoghurt - what quantities of each were required.  She kept tasting to see if she needed to add more of either ingredient.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rookie parent mistakes.

'Rookie parent mistakes' are what my husband and I call it when we either do something (or don't do something) that in hindsight was completely obvious.  These are inevitably about parenting.

Today's rookie parenting mistake:

Taking two toys out of the Toy Library that both have tinny music and american accented versions of the alphabet.  One of the toys DOES NOT HAVE AN OFF BUTTON.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grief and grieving.

Since the majority of people who read this blog are friends you will know that in 2009 I was pregnant, sick, got some kind of bug and horribly and suddenly miscarried our daughter Joanna in ED.  The reason is unknown, even the obstetrican was surprised. My daughter was alive, swimming around and my cervix was tightly closed ten minutes before I miscarried.  The randomness and unfairness of it all is still breathtaking.  It remains the worst experience of my life, and I'm sure in many ways defines the person I am now, although I cannot point to a specific example.  Over the next year it took a lot of effort to get my notes, Joanna's postmortem report, deal with two more 'chemical' miscarriages, commence blood tests and appointments for recurrent miscarriage clinic and then end up pregnant the month we were not trying.  That baby is currently asleep upstairs.

The grief was phenomonal.  It is hard to explain how all encompassing it was.  I look back at my writing at that time and I am very lost and very, very angry.  I found it so much easier to explain how I felt in writing than out loud.  I spent a lot of time in an online forum for mums who had experienced pregnancy loss.  I imagine that all kinds of grief have their own special nature, and I think there is a certain kind of guilt that comes with pregnancy loss.  After all, you spend most of pregnancy doing everything you can to protect the baby from harm, and then something goes wrong and your body doesn't do its job anymore.  In my case, I lost a lot of blood, ended up with retained products and so also required antibiotics and an operation to resolve the physical effects of the miscarriage.  So at a time when I was overcome with grief, I was also very physically unwell.

It took a long time to accomodate the grief within me.  It didn't wear off, and I didn't 'get over it.'  Basically, I accomodated the grief in my life, and it no longer felt as acute.  A day or two could go by when I wouldn't think of Joanna.  The grief would just tick along with me, with days like her due date or birth/death date allowing that grief to dominate my thoughts.  This year I found the birth/death date surprisingly difficult to deal with.  I was not looking forward to the day, and it was a day that just had to be endured.  There were a few tears and a bit of anger, and then some of the tension dissipated.  I felt fragile and shaky, but once the day passed I felt better.  The grief retreated back to being a part of me, rather than all of me.

Last week that grief was unleashed, in its full, horrid acuity.  A google search of my name led to Joanna's cremation record posted on an online tribute site that I had not set up.  Enquires to the crematorium determined that this site 'Heaven address' had used a spider bot (computer programme) to take cremation details from the searchable cremation database and create automatic profiles on their website.  During the same conversation I learnt that the hospital had informed the crematorium that we didn't want Joanna's ashes, so they had scattered them somewhere at the cemetary.  This was incorrect, we had desperatly wanted Joanna's ashes, but were informed that due to her gestational age it was unlikely that there would be ashes.

I dealt with the online 'tribute site' - they wont be doing that again.  Dealing with the hospital is a little trickier, but I'll get round to it. But what was just really hard to deal with was the wall of grief that slammed into me.  I stopped.  I couldn't do anything.  I had to withdraw from a course that I'd really been looking forward to:  I just couldn't do the pre-course work.  To have to relive all that grief seemed really unfair. One person told me 'that it has been two years, it is time to move on.'  Well, that is the problem with grief, or maybe miscarriage.  There is always one person missing from our family, no matter how many more children we have.  Would I be told to move on if it had been an adult who had died? Grief isn't finite, I don't think it has an endpoint.  It just hums along in the background, unleashing itself periodically.

Raindrops on roses - favourites.

I have an amazing PIN group, who put me on to alphabet spaghetti.  I've looked for it in shops periodically, and I cannot work out why I didn't think to check Mediterranean Food Warehouse  The advice I received was to go to the second aisle, as there were two types, and the ones in the second aisle were cheaper.  I also found some funky Christmas shaped ones.  I let my oldest daughter choose which pasta she wanted for dinner - she chose the Christmas ones and I 'decorated' them with 'spots' (pesto).  She actually ate it.  Two nights later I made one of our classic family standbys, dumplings cooked in stock with veges and used the alphabet pasta.  My daughter spelled out her name by sorting through some uncooked letters, then 'cooked herself.'  This is when I learnt that alphabet pasta only takes three or four minutes to cook!

 Spelling out her name!

Cheese making economics.

Is it more economical to make your own cheese at own home (as opposed to buying it)?

I made this a couple of times before I purchased my cheese making kit with Giffy (regular commentator here).  You need milk and citric acid or vinegar.  You heat the milk, add the acid, cook for a couple more minutes, leave to cool down, strain and chill.  Cost:  about $5.  Cheaper than the supermarket ($10) need to make a few hours ahead.  I use it mixed with a little icing sugar (and once with a little cocoa and icing sugar) for a grown up cake icing.

Milk, citric acid, salt.  I've made a couple of times and it is a lot cheaper than the supermarket.  It would cost around $5 for what costs around $12 in the supermarket. It is very rich, so if cooking with it (like pizza for example) you only need a tiny amount.

The Mad Millie cheesemaking kit I bought first was $39.95 and contains recipes and ingredients to make marscapone, ricotta (including draining basket), ricotta salata and mozzarella.  I don't think that I would have tried making ricotta or mozzarella without the kit, and I'd never heard of ricotta salata before!


I needed the kit to make this - the instructions, rennet and calcium chloride are not stuff I have lying around the house.  Using four litres of milk I made enough about seven largish mozzarella balls - enough to top a lasagna, and break over four individual pizzas today.  I think one got eaten by itself as well.  To buy that much mozzarella would probably cost about $15-20 at the supermarket (but I did use about $9.  This was the most satisfying cheese that I've made - the process is just so fun.  I would probably never buy mozzarella balls, but breaking them over homemade pizza dough with my daughter was lots of fun.  I think an afternoon of pizza dough making and cheese making followed by pizza eating could be a very worthwhile activity.

The Italian cheeses kit is very worthwhile then for the occasional cheesemaker as the kit (including recipes) will save a fair amount of money over time.  I think I could make about 15 lots of mozzarella before needing more rennet or calcium chloride.

Light Cream cheese

This uses the 'fresh cheeses' kit, which comes with my absolute favourite thing in the world: spores!!  You know how cream cheese costs heaps (I once wanted to make a cheesecake for a dinner party but couldn't fathom spending $12 on cream cheese alone).  Well this kit made enough cream cheese for a smallish cheesecake.  It was dead simple (milk, spores and rennet) and so awesome cool to watch progress.  If you used a lot of cream cheese (and I've taken to using it as a savoury item as well) you could make back your money on purchasing the fresh cheese kit after about six batches.


The feta was really, really fun to make.   A little goes a long way.  This cheese is also good because you can freeze it (makes it a bit crumblier).  I froze it, then used it in a pastry tart with caramelised onion.  Looked pretentious, tasted awesome.   

Halloumi, quark, cottage cheese and 'french style' cream cheese.

Yet to make so can't comment on the costs.


Like most things you buy, the more you use it the better value you get for the item.  I've made enough cheese from the Italian Cheese kit to have paid for itself, and continue to use the equipment that came with it.  The fresh cheese kit I can't comment on quite yet as I've only made the cream cheese.  I'd like to have a go making the feta - I can see a feta and caramelised onion tart as a dinner party treat sometime soon.

I did think that all the leftover whey was a bit wasteful, until I learned that it can be used to make whey ricotta, in bread or scones instead of water and in smoothies or stock.  It is even great on the garden!!  So not as wasteful as I first thought.

For me it is a little bit liking playing at science as well (I got to use a pipette!)- the satisfaction from doing something so novel, and the deliciousness of very fresh cheese is great.  I love going round encouraging people with how easy it is, and am very, very keen to move on and try the Camembert kit!!

Cheese madness

The last 24 hours have been a bit of a blur.  It started when I found an old recipe book of mine from my student days.  In the back I had handwritten lots of recipes as I came across them from different friends.  I saw a recipe I made a few times - naan bread.  What I really liked about this recipe was that you could freeze them in little balls after you had kneaded them, then defrost, flatten and cook for dinner.  Yum.  The recipe needs natural yoghurt so I got out the Easiyo maker, threw in a mix and left it to do its magic overnight.

The next morning the yoghurt was ready so I made the naan dough.  At this point I was feeling lazy so threw the mixture into the breadmaker to knead while I caught up with a friend.  I put it in the breadmaker, then forgot about it for about six hours.

The baby got some of the yoghurt for lunch - mixed with a smidge of homemade strawberry jam.  It was so yummy, I ended up having the same!

In the meantime I decided to make Jamie Oliver's 'simple' lasagne.  I'm not sure exactly what he thinks is simple about it - it contains about 25 ingredients.  But it looked delicious, and any recipe that starts off with 'fry the bacon in cinnamon' sounds promising.  Instead of white sauce he uses creme fraiche. I decided to substitute with my leftover cream cheese made a couple of days ago.  At the same time I had the idea that ricotta would also be nice in the lasagne (and would be lovely on some naan bread pizzas as well).  So I made some ricotta. 

I happily prepared the recipe, really enjoying chopping up the last of our carrots, and using my sole heritage tomato from the garden in the meat sauce.  I felt like it was going to be a really special meal.

I got to the end of the recipe (this is why you should read them carefully before you start) and saw that you should put mozarella on the top.  I have the recipe for mozarella, but didn't have the milk, and hadn't made it before.  At this stage I was quite emotionally invested in my super-lasagne so just decided that it had to have home made mozarella as well.  I went down to the supermarket, bought some silver top milk and put the baby in the high chair with a rice cracker and banana to keep her amused while I prepared the mozarella.

I decided to halve the recipe as it felt a bit decadent buying four litres of silver top.  But because I was rushing, and having fun playing scientist (you get to use a pipette when you make mozarella) I accidentally added the full amount of calcium chloride and rennet.  Once I realised what I had done I decided to wing it.  I fashioned some silver top milk out of blue milk and cream (about 200mls of cream and the rest blue milk mixed together).  I have no idea what the correct proportion would be, but I was determined to keep going.  After half an hour, it had set, and for the first time in my life I got to 'cut the curd.'  The mozarella making itself was fun - and almost mystical - grab a handful of drained curds, dip in hot water for 30seconds then stretch around and make a ball.  It was awesome fun.

The lasagne was assembled and baked.  It did taste awesome, but was not simple, and I would probably only make it again if I was entertaining.

As the cheese making craziness wore off I reviewed the damage:  The recycling now contained two blue milk containers, one silver top and one cream.  There were pots everywhere (I did three loads in the dishwasher that wild afternoon).

And I'd forgotten all about the naan.  The naan had risen spectacularly: all over the top of the pan in the breadmaker and down the sides.  So I had a bit of a rapid clean up, froze the little naan balls and very tiredly went to pick up my eldest daughter from creche.

I think I'll lay off the cheesemaking for a couple of days! 

 (left to right): marscapone, cream cheese and ricotta (in progress)
 The homemade yoghurt with strawberry jam
 My first mozarella balls - they get smoother with practice!
The rather delcious lasagne!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Smug carrot cake

I call this my smug carrot cake because I made the cream cheese icing myself with my Mad Millie kit!  This is another Ray McVinnie instant classic, I made it today and everyone went nuts for it.  Carrot cake can be quite ordinary, but this version transforms carrot cake into something other-worldly!  Ray's version is gluten free.  Mine is gluten.  I'll note my other changes too.

Ray McVinnie's Carrot Cake (Sunday Star-Times, 10 April 2011)

3/4 cup rice flour
1/4 cup corn flour  (I replaced these first two with a cup of flour)
1/2 cup ground almonds
1/1/2 cups caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda (measure really carefully, you don't want that soapy taste from using too much)
3/4 tsp baking powder
1 TBSP ground cinammon (I only had half a TBSP left so made it up with mixed spice)
1 TBSP ground ginger
1 cup walnut pieces (use really good quality walnuts.  I only had 3/4 cup so I added half a cup of sultanas)
3/4 cup dessicated coconut (I only had the long stuff)
3/4 cup grapeseed or vege oil
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups grated carrot
3/4 cup crushed pineapple, well drained.

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Butter a 23cm-diametre loose bottomed cake tin and line with paper (I decided to use a 20cm tin and make some cupcakes at the same time).
Place the dry ingrediants in a bowl and mix well.  Add all the rest and mix well. Pour into the tin and place in the oven for 45-50mins until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.
When cool, remove from tin and cut in half so that you have two layers.   Spread half of the icing between the two layers, then put the rest on the top.


3.5cups icing sugar
100g softened butter (I used my freshly made cream cheese)
zest and juice of 2 lemons (I used 3 - I like it runnier)

Mix until smooth.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ray McVinnie is awesome.

Ray is my fav.  Every now and then one of his recipes leaps out, grabs me and demands that I make it.  In this week's Sunday Star-Times he published a recipe called Torta Di Mele (Apple Cake).  He describes it as '...simply a batter holding together sliced apples.'  What a gift this man has - I consider him a fantastic writer, as well as an inspired cook.  The research into different cuisines, as well as the techniques he use mean that his recipes are lovely to read, and often a real joy to cook.

I made this within four hours of reading the recipe!  It is delicious, and would be awesome with cream or yoghurt.  It was just as nice the next day, and the fennel makes it really interesting.  A classic for a cold Sunday afternoon or evening.

Torta Di Mele - Apple Cake  (Ray McVinnie, Sunday Star-Times 10 April 2011)

100g butter
100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
3 eggs (I used size 7)
1tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon
2 tsp fennel seeds
100g flour
1 tsp baking powder
4 apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced (I used granny smith)

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Butter and paper the bottom and sides of a 23cm diametre loose bottomed cake tin.  Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time.   Stir in the vanilla, zest, fennel, flour and baking powder, then stir in the apple slices.  Allow to sit for ten minutes, then sprinkle well with sugar, place in the oven and bake for 45-50 mins until very well cooked.  Remove from the oven and serve in wedges warm or cold.  It is best to slightly overcook the cake as the juice from the apples will make it wet when cold.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Cream cheese and Mad Millie

While down south for Christmas I brought a  Mad Milliebrand cheese making kit from a Bin Inn.  I'd had a couple of goes at making marscapone (actually very easy) and wanted to have a go at making mozarella.  I made the most delicious, rich ricotta from the kit and so was naturally keen to have a go at making a couple more.

A friend directed me to their first ever stall at the Frank Kitts Park Saturday market and the idea of a 10% discount was enough to wander down to get another kit.  I purchased the fresh cheese kit, which can make haloumi, cream cheese, feta, quark and cottage cheese.  And it comes with spores!!!

So I'm having a go at making cream cheese right now - two litres of silver top milk, spores and a small amount of rennet dissolved in water.  Now I just leave it for 24hrs.  Honestly, the actual cheese preparation took half the time of sterilising everything first.

Lets see how it works....


When I woke up this morning the spores and rennet had done their work!  The bowl of milk was now solid, four hours later you can see whey forming as it firms up.  Tonight I will remove and hang overnight!  Yum!

Further ETA: The cheese is now draining.  I got a bit bored while waiting for it so made some marscapone at the same time (I found ladyfingers on special at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse so Tiramisu is in my future).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Baby advice.

I've started a new job as a Plunket Educator. It is for the Plunket 'Education In Schools' programme.  It is a six week course taught in schools with an emphasis on safety.  For me it is basically like listening to a Plunket Nurse tell you what to do constantly - the messages are the same as I get for my girls, and the reactions of the students when you give them the 'E: True Hollywood Story of Parenting' is just hilarious.

So I was particularly pleased when my Mum sent me my Plunket Book.  It has a white and blue cover and is falling to bits.  I was 3.12kg and 3.3kg when first seen by Plunket at 2.5 weeks.

There is a suggested routine at the front of the book, which is about as laughable as any other timetable oriented routine I've seen for babies.  It does include sun bathing time(!) and lots of outside sleeping time.  It allows thirty minutes relaxation and recreation time for the mother in the evening, so perhaps I should consider it!

What I find really interesting is the six important headings that the book includes:  they are very close to the eight needs of children that I teach in my course.

Six 'headings'
  1. Love
  2. Food
  3. Cleanliness
  4. Rest
  5. Clothing
  6. Exercise (fresh air and play)
Eight 'basic needs'

  1. Love and Security
  2. Food
  3. Hygiene
  4. Rest and Sleep
  5. Clothing
  6. Development (physical and mental)
  7. Shelter
  8. Learning
There is not a single mention of breastfeeding in the old book (I was formula feed), but a formula fed baby today will still have approximatly 10,000 mentions of breastfeeding in their Plunket book.  There is a definite emphasis on 'motions.'  The standard headings for each visit are:
  • Date
  • Age
  • Weight
  • Nurse's Comments and Advice
  • Motions.
My formula feeds were being watered down at night from five weeks, I guess as part of a plan to get me sleeping through the night.  I was on solids from nine weeks (the norm these days is from six months).  In the seven weeks old entry there is a mysterious recipe for baking soda in cooled boiled water.  It doesn't mention what it is for.

There is an emphasis on iron rich foods that is familiar to today's parent.  Meat juice is suggested, and egg yolks every other day.  Sieved meat pulp (made from liver or kidney) was one handwritten recipe and there was a suggestion of fruit juice in the afternoon (at seven and a half months old).  Plunket nurses today would cringe at the fruit juice recommendation!

Anyone else have their old Plunket Book?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Rose hip jam.

I mentioned in a previous post that I really wanted to make rose hip jam and had started collecting the rosehips.  The rosehips outside my lounge window have been enticing me for a few days so I put the baby in the high chair with some toast, pulled her right up to the window (separation anxiety) and clipped away.  I cut about two cups worth before I got bored/ realised that effort involving the step ladder would be required.  Later I pulled out the little stems and any leaves and put them in a pot with some water to boil.

Rose hip syrup is a traditional baby tonic - rosehips are full of vitamins and iron so teaspoon fulls were often given to children as a pick me up.  I don't know if the jam has any particular health benefit, or could given the amount of sugar in it, but I think that if I can be bothered picking more rosehips then I'll try this next.

Many of the recipes that I looked up recommended cutting the hips in half and removing the seeds.  This seemed ridiculous, and way too full off effort for me.  I found a local NZ food writer who pointed out the futility of this step (rose hips are small, cutting them in half is hard but then removing the 'seeds,' honestly).

I refilled the pot while simmering a few times then left to infuse overnight.  All the recipes that I read recommended really squishing the pulp to get out all the juice.  This is at odds with most jam recipes, but I decided to go for it.  I lined a sieve with a couple of muslins and left to drain for a couple of hours.  Occasionally I would mix round the pulp and really push it through.  Finally I had about two cups of liquid (I knew I should have picked more rosehips).  I boiled up with an equal amount of jam sugar, a squeeze of lemon and about a TBSP of pectin (this particular bag of 'jam sugar' has not worked well for me).  It probably took about ten minutes of hard boiling to reach the appropriate stage.  Voila, one jar of rust orange jam, the colour of autumn.

The smell and taste are awesome.  I recommended crumpets.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Biting. Mothers: you know where.

I'm mostly pretty pleased that my baby has never had a bottle of formula.  Breastfeeding is hard work, the health benefits for Mum and Baby are well established and it can take a lot of effort on the part of the breastfeeding mother to go without sleep and never being more than four hours away from their baby.  It wasn't easy the first time round, so I'm really pleased it is going well with my daughter.

So I mostly just quietly grumble about the restrictions because I know that the benefits make the effort worthwhile. 

But I don't like being bitten.

It is the worst, most shocking sensation.  Breastfeeding can be quite tranquil, and last night's dreamfeed proceeded in the usual way:  me idly reading a book, my daughter drinking in her sleep.  Until she finished.  And she bit me.  It took everything not to scream and wake her up.  This was not the first bite - there have been a number over the last few days.  I've done the typical 'say No' firmly thing.

But I do think if anything could make me quit it would be biting.  It is so horrid.

When you need to show off/ Chocolate Passionfruit linzertorte

So we have grown up friends coming over tonight who are visiting from Australia.  We need grown up delicious food, but Tuesdays are quite busy for us.  My husband volunteered to cook the main (yay) so I decided to make a dessert.

Our friends are expecting their first baby so I needed to be mindful of pregnancy food requirements as well. Linzertorte was on my mind as a friend had brought by the most delicious chocolate and raspberry linzertorte from Arobakerei.  A bit of googling and frank assessment of the ingredients I had to hand and this is the recipe I came up, combined from about four different ones.  I really like ingredients that require three and a half hours cooling time immediately before serving!

Chocolate passionfruit linzertorte.

1 cup ground almonds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
150grams butter
2/3 cup icing sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups plain flour
1/4 cup really nice cocoa 
3 passion fruit

150 grams dark chocolate (I used 62%)  


PREHEAT oven to 180C.

Mix ground almonds, cinnamon, flour and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, sugar and egg yolk in medium mixer bowl.  You want a mixture that will hold together and form a dough. Put 2/3 of the mixture in a nine inch tart tin, making sure it goes up the sides and is pretty even.

Melt chocolate in uncovered, microwave-safe bowl on HIGH (100%) power for 1 minute; STIR. If necessary, microwave at additional 10- to 15-second intervals stirring just until chocolate is melted. Open up the passion fruit and mix passion fruit juice and seeds in with the chocolate.  Spread over base of tart.
With the remaining dough I crumbled it up and sprinkled it casually around the edge, given it a kind of rustic look (rustic is my word for not being bothered rolling it out and creating lattice work pastry).

Bake for 35-45 minutes (watch the crust to make sure it isn't burning) . Cool completely in pan on wire rack.  Refrigerate for at least 3 1/2 hours or until well chilled. Remove side of tart pan and place on serving platter before serving.  If I feel fancy I may make some marscapone and serve it on the side, otherwise I will pop down to the diary and get some cream.  I reckon a sprinkling of raspberries or blueberries would be nice with this too!

Variant:  Most of the recipes I read called for 'seedless raspberry jam' as the fruit flavouring.  A cup of any berry or plum jam would also be nice.  I also felt like a chocolate tart, but most recipes I found called for plain crusts.  Just substitute the cocoa in my recipe for flour if you want a plain one.